Research suggests that Latinos are dramatically underrepresented in data on street and shelter homelessness.
According to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless’ recent report, which just became available in Spanish, an estimated 68,000 people are homeless in Chicago.
Meanwhile, 91% of Latino Chicagoans who are experiencing homelessness are expected to be in doubled-up situations.
“People experience homelessness in different ways. They could be at shelters on the street or doubled-up, which some people consider couch surfing,” said Arturo Hernandez, a senior attorney with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “This is when someone is staying at someone’s house where they have no legal right to be at and they can be asked to leave at any time. So they don’t have their own house, their own apartment, they might be staying with a relative or a friend, but they don’t have the right to be there.”
La Casa Norte focuses on helping Latino youth and their families who are either homeless or experiencing the danger of becoming homeless. Salvador Cerna, director of community impact and special projects at La Casa Norte, said there’s a large, growing need.
“There are a lot of organizations like ours that are supporting, but it’s never enough,” Cerna said.
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless’ numbers are from 2021 — which means they don’t account for the thousands of asylum seekers who started arriving in 2022 and are raising awareness of the city’s housing crisis.
“We are providing rental assistance to the asylum seekers,” Cerna said. “But we have to understand that we’re dealing with a human rights issue. It’s regardless of race, ethnicity, background, gender, sexual orientation and immigration status, and we need to address it.”
Bruce Parry with the Illinois Union of the Homeless helps connect people staying at an encampment across San Lucas United Church of Christ in Humboldt Park to wraparound services and more permanent living situations.
Parry was once homeless himself and said living outside in below-freezing temperatures is extremely dangerous.
“It’s a brutal existence at any time, but in this kind of weather, we literally have had a veteran freeze to death in the winter in Chicago,” Parry said. “It is extremely important that we get everyone housed as soon as possible. I want to point out that next week, the 10th of December is the 75th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights that encompasses everything that’s just been said about everyone having the right to housing and to the other basic services.”
Illinois Union of the Homeless is working with 26th Ward Ald. Jessie Fuentes’ office to host a winter fundraiser on Dec. 10 from 4-7 p.m. at 1746 N. Kimball Ave.
The group will be raising funds for heating blankets and other “crucial” survival materials.
Parry said he’s been noticing a divide between aiding asylum seekers and Chicago’s homeless population. He said “fighting is not going to help anyone.”
Chicagoans can expect to vote in March’s election on a proposal known as Bring Chicago Home. The measure would hike taxes on the sales of properties worth $1 million or more to provide funding to assist the city’s homeless population.